Monterrey are proving themselves to be a real scoring machine this Clausura, putting three into the net at Morelia. Defense, however, is an issue the Rayados must address.
Several times this season, Monterrey has taken an early lead – typically through star player Rogelio Funes Mori – and looked set to see out a comfortable win. On Friday night against Morelia, the Rayados followed the same script.
League-leading scorer Funes Mori picked up a loose ball out near midfield, turned and took two strides toward the net, then let fly from 40 meters. The rocket swerved left of center and zipped right under the crossbar out of the reach of the lunging Sebastián Sosa. A golazo!
But unlike earlier chapters (León and Pumas, for instance), Morelia decided not to wait until the final 10 minutes to fight back. Just a minute later, Maxi Meza was dispossessed near midfield and Edson Flores dribbled away, then pushed a pass ahead to Carlos Ferreira who was chopped down by Rayados captain José María Basanta. But Flores never stopped running after making the pass. He chased the ball down on the right flank behind the defense, dribbled into the box then curled a beauty of a shot around Marcelo Barovero and into the side netting at the back post.
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Tied at the half, Monterrey fans would have been understandably anxious as the Rayados have struggled to protect leads in the Clausura. In fact, their defense is downright leaky.
The second half proved to be much more entertaining as both teams scratched and clawed ferociously in an effort to find the all-important second goal.
Finally, Gaston Leczano gave the home side the advantage on the hour mark, getting free down the left flank, cutting into the box onto his right foot and kissing a shot off the inside of the far post. Monterrey had been caught badly out of position and as the Monarcas sat back in a defensive posture, it looked doubtful that the visitors could get anything from this game.
But Funes Mori came to the rescue at the 78-minute mark. Jesús Gallardo was sent free into the box where he got to the touch line and rifled a centering pass across the face of the goal. Funes Mori had beaten his marker back side and redirected the pass into the netting. Score tied 2-2 with 12 minutes remaining.
Monterrey pressed forward, but space was hard to find. All game, Morelia had managed to shut down gaps in their defensive third. The Rayados had managed only 2 shots on goal to that point, but both found their way into the net. Ever opportunistic, the Rayados found time to create a third shot on goal and that, too, went into the net.
The winner came off the foot of midfielder Carlos Rodríguez who one-timed a drop pass from Avilés Hurtado from in close. The clock read 90+1 and Monterrey successfully saw off the final two minutes of injury time to secure a 3-2 win.
Funes Mori now has 7 goals through 7 games to lead Liga MX. Also of note, World Cup veteran Miguel Layún debuted with the Rayados, playing at right back for all 90 minutes.
While all 3 points deservedly go back to Monterrey, their fans will be worried about defense lapses and the Rayados’ inability to close out a game.
For the time being, Monterrey sits atop the table with 17 points and an impressive 20 goals from 7 games. Next up is a Concacaf Champions League match against Salvadoran champion Alianza FC.
In other Friday night Liga MX action, Puebla scored late at home to tie Pachuca 1-1 and, in Tijuana, the Xolos routed the hapless Tiburones 3-0.